Sarah, Plain and Tall

by Patricia MacLachlan

Hardcover, 1985



Local notes

PB Mac




HarperTrophy (1985), Edition: 1st, 58 pages


When their father invites a mail-order bride to come live with them in their prairie home, Caleb and Anna are captivated by their new mother and hope that she will stay.


Texas Bluebonnet Award (Nominee — 1987)
Young Hoosier Book Award (Nominee — Intermediate — 1988)
Sequoyah Book Award (Nominee — Children's — 1988)


Original language


Original publication date


Physical description

58 p.; 5.38 inches

User reviews

LibraryThing member Pammypam
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan

“Did mama sing every day?” asked Caleb. “Every-single-day?” He sate close to the fire, his chin in his hand. It was dusk, and the dogs lay beside him on the warm hearthstones.

Somehow in my reading lifetime I missed Sarah, Plain and Tall; I
Show More
recently discovered this gem and can see why it is so beloved. After Papa is left a widower with small children at home, he puts an ad in the newspaper for a wife. What he gets is Sarah. Sarah is a perfect match for Papa and the children and the delightful tale of their growing relationships gently unfolds during the story.

No matter how much I enjoyed the story (and the possibility of reading the sequels) I cannot help thinking that there is no ethnic diversity in the story. But not nonexistent. The author very slyly imposes a feminist approach to Sarah’s character. Sarah is smart and physically strong and is able to perform many tasks around the farm that are traditionally male and forces the family to understand that these abilities are part of her character. Naturally, Papa has trouble adjusting to this type of woman. These-strong minded female character traits are important for young readers to be exposed to. This viewpoint provides diversity with Sarah is a role model.

Diversity benefits this entire family as Sarah decides whether she will stay and become Papa’s wife.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ctpress
“There are always things to miss," said Maggie. "No matter where you are.”

Sarah, Plain and Tall is just everything I love in a Children’s book. Easy to understand for a little child, yet profound and filled with wisdom and poetic beauty that will grab the attention of every adult. A story
Show More
about a widowed man and his two children who live on a farm - he puts an ad in the paper seeking a wife - and Sarah arrives - there’s a lot of speculation among the children about Sarah. Does she like them? Will she stay? Will she marry their father? Can she overcome her longing for the sea at home? They are all guessing and wondering what the future will bring in this period of learning to trust and understand each other.

A story told in sparse language that resembles the simple, quiet, remote prairie life. A quick read, but one that will stay with me a long time.
Show Less
LibraryThing member katiekrug
This Newberry Medal winner is just as charming as I remembered, though for different reasons. As a child, I liked the idea of the pioneer life and a happy family coming together. This time around, I was taken by MacLachlan’s ability to capture perfectly a child’s experience of loss, loneliness
Show More
and fear. It’s such a sweet story of a motherless family welcoming a mail-order bride to their farm on the prairie, but told with such beautiful imagery and language that there is enough to hold an adult’s attention.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Whisper1
This 1986 Newbery Medal winner is a small, yet mighty gem of a story. Sarah remembers her mother who gave birth to Caleb and then passed away. Caleb does not remember his mother and never knew the touch of a mother's love. Their father is a kind man who decides it is time to once again know the joy
Show More
of a wife.

Sending for a mail order bride brings Sarah to the family. She is a loving, pragmatic woman who moves from Maine to the Midwest. Missing her family and the ocean, the children fear she will leave.

This is a heart warming story of loss and love, of hope and promise.

It is an old fashioned tale that transcends time.
Show Less
LibraryThing member librarianlou
Patricia MacLachlan is one of my favorite authors.
She is a master of words. She tells the story of Sarah, a mail order bride, who comes West on the train to be a stepmother for Caleb and Anna is less than seventy pages. Her prose is magical.
LibraryThing member juliette07
Set a long way from the beloved sea of the Sarah in the title this simple story reflects the lasting values of hope, wisdom and love. There are moments of beauty as the landscape, the animals and the farm are drawn in words.

Singing, cutting hair, the language of hope and a sense of mutual respect
Show More
and learning from one another are central to this story. From the start little Caleb’s plaintive question ‘Will she bring the sea?’ is the crux of the story. We learn of loneliness, friendship, sisterhood and family.

A delightful Newbery medal award winner and one I look forward to sharing with our little Aimee.
Show Less
LibraryThing member stharp
A winner of the 1986 Newbery medal, and its no wonder it is an excellent example of historical fiction. This book has realistic expectations as for what life would have been like in 1910. The plot in this book keeps the reader engaged and ready to embrace the coming experiences Caleb and Anna will
Show More
face as Sarah comes to live with them from the east coast.
Show Less
LibraryThing member MadalynN
In the late 19th century, Anna and Caleb’s dad, a widowed, mid-western farmer places an advertisement for a mail order bride. When Sarah answers the letter, Anna and Caleb are so excited. Sarah lives in Maine by the ocean. Anna, Caleb, and their Jacob write letters to Sarah and tell her about
Show More
themselves. Sarah writes to them and tells them about the ocean and how much she loves it. Then one day in one of the letters, Sarah writes that she is going to visit. When she gets there, she misses the sea and her family but she also begins to love the farm and the family. She is everything that they had hoped for; doing everything her mother used to do. She works in the field and house with Anna, Caleb, and Jacob. Sarah is faced with a difficult decision; stay with her new family or return home to the sea.
This was one book that I actually read and really enjoyed. It kept me wondering from page to page. I kept reading to find out if she decided to stay or go back home. My mom is my best friend and I think it is so important for every child to have a mother figure in their life. I know that my life would be so much different without my mom.

I would do a unit on the pioneer days. I would teach about the families and how sending for a mail-order bride was typical of this time. I would have the children write letters like Anna, Sarah, Caleb, and Jacob did. An additional activity would be to let them sing a song that was sung to them when they were little, like in the book.
Show Less
LibraryThing member Omrythea
When Anna and Caleb’s father invite a mail-order bride to come and live with them in their prairie home, they fall in love with Sarah and hope she will decide to stay.
A short, simple, enjoyable read.
LibraryThing member lleighton05
Genre: This book could be either historical fiction or realistic fiction because it describes what life was like to live on a prairie during this time. However, the book fails to be very descriptive about the time period and therefore it makes it hard to know exactly what other historical
Show More
events took place during this time. It also represents realisitc fiction because although it is a made-up story, it could easily take place.
Character: The narrator of the story is Anna, the sister to Caleb and the daughter to Papa. The reader understands the story through her perspective and she is a round character, so we know most about her. We think and see through her eyes. She is developed as she interacts with her brother, her Papa, and then later through Sarah. We also learn her perspective on whether she thinks Sarah is going to stay with them, or go back to Maine.
Media: pencil
Show Less
LibraryThing member jeriannthacker
Simple, sweet story about Sarah, who leaves her home to become the wife of a stranger.
LibraryThing member MrsLee
I've never had such a short story move me so intensely as this one did. A man has lost his loving wife and mother of his children. In the 1800's, pioneering on the prairies, he needed help to raise his children. Enter Sarah. She is looking for a life. She answers an ad in the newspaper and becomes
Show More
a trial mail order bride. The way the four people in this story learn to blend their lives is heartwarming and beautiful.
Show Less
LibraryThing member laurieleewalsh
This simple, complex and delightful book is one of my favorites. I love the simplicity and the complexity of the characters and how this cobbled-together family learns to love each other. I think that many people can identify with Sarah when pines for the ocean, since she was somewhat a victim of
Show More
her circumstances and didn't really want to leave.

I use this book as one of my choices for my Newbery literature circles unit.
Show Less
LibraryThing member JenniferHauschildt
A family lived on the prarie. The mother died in childbirth, so the father sends away for a wife. They exchange letters with a lady from Maine named Sarah. She decides to visit. The children like her, but they are worried that she will want to go back to Maine. She fits in very well on their farm
Show More
and she decides to stay.

Personal Reaction

I don't generally read historical fiction, but this was a good story. It flowed nicey and kept me engaged. It was a fairly short book at 58 pages. It had a good ending!

Classroom Extension

- I would read this book aloud in my classroom during a unit on the west.

- I would use this as a small group book. The students could make a timeline of the story and note important events that happened.
Show Less
LibraryThing member munchkin49
Sarah Plain and Tall is the story of a woman that travels from her home in Maine to a farm on the pairie to meet a family and decide if she wants to become the new wife and the mother of the children. Sarah is not a mild mannered woman. She is strong willed and is not like most women of that time.
Show More
When she arrives, she meets the children, a young girl and her younger brother. The children are both anxious for Sarah to like them and their papa so she will stay. They are worried that she won't like the house, the farm , or them and that she will leave and go back to Maine. Sarah does like them, their house, and the farm, but she misses her home and the sea. What will she decide to do.
I love this story and have read and reread it many times. I enjoy the struggle that Sarah feels when she is trying to get to know Papa. Her inner conflict of missing the sea and all that is familiar to her is so well written you can feel it with her. The way the author discribes what life was like on a farm brings pictures to mind and puts me there with the characters. I very much enjoy this story as well as the sequals.
This would be a good book to use to talk about leaving what is familiar behind and moving to a new, strange place. I would ask the students if they had ever had to move to a new place and leave friends and or family behind. I think I would do this activity in a group circle and let the students share their experiences. Another thing would be to have the students talk about the chores that Caleb and Anna had to do and what chores do they have to do. Maybe we could use a Venn diagram and find the similiarities and differences between what Caleb and Anna did and what they do. I would have each of them do their own diagram. The other activity we could do would be to talk about the differences between where the farm was and where Sarah had lived next to the sea. Do a quick lesson on geographic locations and maybe focus on the weather.
Show Less
LibraryThing member bh101971
Brent Hagen
Children’s Lit
April 17, 08

Newberry Medal Winner
Sarah, Plain and Tall
By Patricia MacLachlan

Sarah, Plain and Tall is a good example of historical fiction. The story takes place on a farm on the prairie. A young family is in desperate need of a mother. The original mother died during
Show More
child birth, and life has been a lonely burden for the family ever since. Papa placed an ad in several big city papers advertising for a wife. A reply came from a lady called Sarah from Maine. They corresponded for several months and finally her big arrival came. Sarah fit into the family nicely. The story engaged the reader to think about what Sarah had to give up to become part of this young family.
Sarah’s description of herself was quite pure. She readily announced that she was plain and tall. Sarah was readily available to work and nothing appeared to be a challenge from putting a roof on the house to learning how to ride a horse and to ride on a wagon while controlling the team of horses. Sarah was flexible and tried to become part of the family. The family realized just how important she was when Sarah wanted to go into town by herself. There was anxiety in the air as to whether she would come back or not. At the end of the day Sarah was back and ready to make the commitment of being a wife and mother.
The story was well written and quite reflective of life on the prairie. The blending of personalities made the story believable. The use of descriptors also engaged the reader with visual pictures to enhance the written text.
Show Less
LibraryThing member victoriahaumesser
This book showed the daily life of a prairie family furing the 1800's. The children's mother has died. The father makes the decision that he need a mother for his children. He corresponds with Sarah from Maine. She agrees to come to the farm and meet the family. Her travels are told. She finds a
Show More
new home and family when she marries the father.
I liked this book it showed the way people lived in the earlier days. I like the way the characters were believable. The theme of this could be stepparents, pairie life and difference of living in this time. The plot was good.
In the classroom you could ask the children to describe one thing they think was harder to do in those days. Have a grand conversation on what the children know about the timeframe and use it beside the social studies lesson on that timeframe.
Show Less
LibraryThing member teddiemitchell
Sarah, Plain and Tall is an excellent book about school teacher that answers an ad asking for a woman to come and become a wife and a mother. Sarah leaves her home in Maine to go to a farm on the frontier to meet the widower with two children, a girl, Anna, and a boy Caleb. Sarah has to decide
Show More
whether or not she wants to stay on the farm and become a wife and a mother or go back home to Maine.
I really enjoyed reading this book the first time I read it in Elementary school and the second time I read it also. It is an excellent story about overcoming a lose and moving on with your lives and fitting in to a new place.
In the classroom i would have the girl students write about what they would do if they were Sarah and the boy students to write about what they would do if they were the Papa of the two children.
Show Less
LibraryThing member ENeal
A Newberry Award winner, Sarah, Plain and Tall, is about a family who lost their mother at the birth of Caleb. It has been a few years and the father decides to put an ad in the paper to try to find a wife and a mother. Caleb and Anna are nervous and excited. All four of them write back and forth
Show More
to one another trying to get to know each other. Finally, Sarah decides to come and stay for a month to see if she likes it. Since she is from Maine, she is not used to the whole farming scene. Everyday is a learning experience. They all adore Sarah and she is very fond of them.

This was a very good book. I could not put it down! I have seen my parents go through a divorce and it is hard to deal with your mom or dad being with a new person. This book was written very well.

This book is a historical fiction book that would be great when talking about the pioneer/frontier period.
Show Less
LibraryThing member kmcgiverin05
Sarah plan and tall is a historical fiction book. The characters feel very real and connect well with the reader. I would use this for primary grades. Sarah one of the main characters is a round well known character. I would use this in the classroom to show students how different families work,
Show More
and to work on their reading skills.
Show Less
LibraryThing member champlin
Early Chapter Book. This is a heart warming story of a family whose mother has died. The father marries a new woman from Maine. Moving from Maine to the prairie is hard for her. The children love her and they all live happily ever after. I liked this book and my favorite character was the brother.
Show More
The classroom connection for this book would be the loss of a parent and the remarriage. It would also be a good resource for learning about life on the prairie.
Show Less
LibraryThing member debnance
When Caleb is born, his mother dies. Caleb’s sister, Anna, is angry with Caleb for causing the death of their mother, but she also loves Caleb.

The whole story of Sarah, Plain and Tall, is filled with beautiful conflicts like these. When Sarah arrives to answer the ad placed by Anna’s father
Show More
for a mother for Anna and Caleb, Anna is torn. She loved her mother and she loves Sarah. Is that wrong? Sarah, we discover, loved the ocean, but she is now to live in a world with no ocean, a world covered with the tall grass of the prairie. Can she live without her ocean? Even if Anna and Caleb and their father love Sarah, will the love be enough to keep Sarah with them?

A tiny gem of a novel.
Show Less
LibraryThing member dcoops2
This book apeals to older children, due to the fact that the story is longer and there are no illustrations to captivate the young mind. The moral of the story teaches about the lost of a parent which can be an emotional strain on the individual.
Growing up and knowing what it felt like for the lost
Show More
of a parent faced by my cousins can be not only emotional but depressing. Dealing with such a loss is an on going process which sometimes may never heal. However, the love that was shared between parent and child can be a silver lining.
Show Less
LibraryThing member landa69
This book was interesting because it dealt with a family trying to be whole again. Sarah seemed to be the missing link for this family of three. It is strange to me how marriages were arranged back then and I am glad that it is not that way now. Sarah seemed to heal the family and also managed to
Show More
find some happiness for herself. The son, Caleb, seemed to relate Sarah's leaving to his mother dying. This story in some ways was very touching.
Show Less
LibraryThing member MerryMary
A young woman from Maine comes to a Nebraska homestead as a mail-order bride. The writer seems to share Sarah's Down East reticence as she tells this story in a few carefully chosen words. The emotions and personalities of the characters shine forth in the spare but deeply felt narrative.

Other editions

Similar in this library




½ (1129 ratings; 3.8)
Page: 2.3928 seconds